Aflatoxin a serious threat to food security, experts warn

Written By: Margaret Kalekye

Aflatoxin contamination is undermining efforts to eradicate poverty on the continent.

Aflatoxin is spreading fast, posing a risk to food security worldwide, as global warming increases, an epidemiologist has warned.

International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) veterinary epidemiologist Johanna Lindahl said aflatoxin which is a major food security issue in Africa; is slowly spreading to the North fueled by the global warming trends.

“With climate change, the aflatoxin is probably going to the North, it is not a problem in Europe but it is a problem in the USA, South America, South East Asia and even a bigger problem in Australia,” she explained.

Speaking during a presser by Food Africa on improving food security in West and East Africa, Lindahl said ILRI conducted a research on local milk and found that 50 percent of samples in Kasarani were contaminated whereas it was less in Kisumu.

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“Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAC) may provide a useful bio-control method to reduce exposure to aflatoxin from contaminated cereal and dairy products, and Food Africa work on the method is in progress,” explained Lindahl.

She said aflatoxin was occurring mostly about 60 degrees North and South of the Equator but this is not a problem in Kenya only or in Africa but it’s global.

“Aflatoxin is a very serious toxin, it does have negative effect and if taken in high quantities can lead to acute liver failure and death,” she said.

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She added that some animals like dogs are very sensitive while some like adult cattle raised for beef are fairly resistant and can eat more without any effects.

“We should work in Kenya to reduce it but we should not be afraid of the milk we are consuming even if it contains aflatoxin. It is still better to drink it than not as the negative effects do not outweigh the positive ones of drinking the dairy product,” said Lindahl.

She said that one of the best ways to avoid the toxins in the food is to have a diverse diet.

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“Do not just eat the same food every day. Eat different things so that you get a lot of other nutrients to dilute the effects of aflatoxins because they are more prevalent in some commodities than others,” she advised.

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An agricultural economist from the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) Dr. Steven Franzel said through improved post-harvest methods including drying and using traditional fermenting methods farmers can reduce aflatoxin contamination by 80 percent.

Reporting by KNA



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